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Jedda
Australia 1955
Directed by Charles Chauvel
Running time 88 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


A mixture of anthropological paternalism and old fashioned matinee adventure melodrama, Charles Chauvel's film was the first in Australian cinema to actually have Aborigines to play Aborigines, Jedda and Marbuck, being played by Ngarla (Rosalie) Kunoth and Robert Tudawali. In its commitment to authenticity it also featured Arunte dialect although, Joe the head drover, played by Paul Reynall, who also provides the voice-over narration, speaks the best BBC English. '

At a time when Australian cinemas were almost entirely screening Hollywood product Jedda was a bold benchmark production, an attempt to realize that oft-trumpeted aspiration of "telling our own stories". It was an international success and the first Australian film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

Whilst still in many respects a handsome film, with striking photography by Carl Kayser, Jedda is limited by the discourse of the time and is largely of historical interest both for the Aboriginal culture it displays and contemporary White Australian attitudes towards it. The first Australian film to be shot in colour, it was made on the newly established colour process of the time, Gevacolor which proved to be unstable, the prints and negatives fading. In 1972 Elsa Chauvel, the director's wife and co-scriptwriter, found tri-separations in a vault in London and was able to save the film although there was some loss of quality.

 

 

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